The Phoenix Coyotes Seek Separation from Western Conference Logjam

Mark BrownContributor IDecember 10, 2010

Taylor Pyatt (l) is greeted by Eric Belanger after his second goal against Minnesota.
Taylor Pyatt (l) is greeted by Eric Belanger after his second goal against Minnesota.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The NHL unofficially defines the halfway point in the season as the Christmas break.

Generally, the coaches and players point to the end of December as a significant barometer regarding a team's progress, or lack thereof. Within that time frame, this would constitute three months of the hockey season in the books and just over three months remaining before the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

This is also the time where teams develop their personality, aggressiveness, complacency and work ethic; this is also show time for the Phoenix Coyotes.

After 3-2 loss Thursday night to the Minnesota Wild before 7,749 at Arena, the Coyotes remain stagnant at 32 standings points and two points back of division-leading Dallas.

At this point, there's a push to gain separation from other teams, but that distance may not be easy to achieve.

"Frankly, I don't know if there can be separation among the teams," said Dave Tippett, the Coyotes coach after the loss to Minnesota.

"There's not much between teams now, and we need to find ways to win games. Sure, you'll lose games along the way, but you can't beat yourself like we did (Thursday night). You can't have these losses."

Though he scored the two Coyotes goals, forward Taylor Pyatt conceded the team needs to be proactive and dictate the tempo and flow of the game. Against the Wild, that did not happen and could be a calling card for future endeavors.

"We did not match their energy," Pyatt said. "We came out flat at home, and the race is so close, we can't afford to do that. Right now, we need to regroup and get ready for Saturday."

That contest could represent a microcosm of fortunes ahead. Since first-place Dallas skates into the desert, the Coyotes will likely measure their grit and energy against the one of the top teams in the Western Conference.

Not that a single game nearly in mid-December is a sole indication of merit, this game should foreshadow the Coyotes' quest to measure themselves among the elite in the Western Conference.

After Thursday's games, the Red Wings had 37 standings points to 25 for Edmonton—that's a separation of just 12 points.

Compare that to the Eastern Conference: The Penguins, after Thursday's games, had 42 standings points and the Islanders were last with 15 points.

"These are huge points for us, and we've talked about the importance of these games," said Phoenix captain Shane Doan. "Every game gets big, and we know Dallas is playing very well right now."

Like the man said, it's show time, Coyotes.

Ice Chips

Another defining moment in the history of the Winnipeg/Phoenix franchise transpires Tuesday night, Dec. 14: That's when the Glendale, Ariz. city council will decided on a new lease for the Coyotes at Arena. 

If the lease is favorable to Matthew Hulsizer, owner of the investment firm PEAKS6 and a man with deep pockets, he expects to be confirmed as the franchise's new owner. By vote of the NHL's Board of Governors earlier this week, Hulsizer was unanimously approved as the new owner.

Now, he needs a new lease in this pocket and with that, Hulsizer can hang his shingle outside of the arena.

Hulsizer will pay the NHL $175 million for right to lose considerable money over the next few years. The Coyotes were reported to have lost about $30 million a year each year for the past decade, and the economic forecast is not encouraging.

Defenseman Keith Yandle picked up an assist on Pyatt's second goal Thursday night, and recorded his 100th career NHL point.


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